It could have been dubbed The Duel in the Sun, or perhaps The Shootout at The Meadows.
Either way, Spaniard Beatriz Recari matched crowd favorite Paula Creamer blow for blow in the heat on Sunday, and ultimately proved one shot better to capture the inaugural Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows.
Recari sank a four-foot putt for par on the 18th green to complete a 17-under 69-65-67-66—267 and clinch the title and $195,000.
PHOTO GALLERY: Marathon Classic fourth round
“I still can’t believe it,” Recari said of winning, “because I was so focused for the last two rounds to just keep cool, and just focus on my game. [Paula] played amazing for two days. It was really a competition.”
Recari’s second LPGA tourney win of the year, was her third overall since joining the tour in 2010.
“It all came down to the last putt,” Recari said. “So I’m just really happy. Definitely, in order to win, I had to play my best game.”
The two players started the day tied at 12-under-par, three shots ahead of the field.
After the front nine holes they had each posted three birdies to make the turn deadlocked at 15-under, Creamer at Nos. 3, 5, and 7, and Recari at 4, 6, and 7.
“My goodness, there were so many great shots played today, and some big putts,” the Californian Creamer said. “I definitely can look at myself in the mirror and say I gave it 100 percent.”
Creamer (66-68-67-67—268) and Recari remained tied until the first of three crucial holes on the back nine.
Recari did not win the 184-yard, par-3 14th hole but, as it turned out, she did win the tournament on it.
After Creamer’s tee shot found the back of the 14th green some 18 feet away, and Recari landed hers within seven in front of the hole, the third player in the final threesome stole the show for at least a few minutes.
Lexi Thompson, who would eventually tie for third place, plunked her ball down 10 feet in front of the hole, then watched it bounce and make a beeline to the cup for a hole-in-one.
“That was amazing,” Thompson, 18, said of her first professional ace. “I can’t describe the feeling. So I dropped my club and I just went crazy.
“Paula and Beatriz played really good today. It was great to watch.”
The ace has earned Thompson a 2014 Kia Cadenza from the local Taylor Kia dealership, which had already given one to Katherine Hull-Kirk for her ace at No. 14 here on Friday.
Hidden in the celebratory buzz following Thompson’s ace was Recari’s birdie putt that proved to be the tournament-winning shot.
But the one that helped Recari hang on to her lead came at No. 16, after Creamer had landed her approach inside of four feet from the pin, a potential tying birdie just waiting to happen.
Creamer did eventually make the putt, but did not tie the match. That’s because Recari coolly drained a 20-footer for birdie ahead of her to retain the one-shot lead.
At No. 17, Recari had a golden opportunity to basically secure the title by going to two shots up with one hole to play. But she missed a four-footer for birdie on the par-5 hole, and that miss gave Creamer a glimmer of hope to force a playoff.
Both players hit their approaches to the back fringe on the par-5 finishing hole. Creamer two-putted from 18 feet, and Recari chipped from 25 feet before sinking the putt that clinched her victory.
Creamer settled for the runner-up prize of $120,655.
“Do I wish I could go back and maybe change a couple things here and there?” Creamer said. “Yes. But I played great. I really did. Beatriz just played one shot better.”
Creamer had 18 birdies and just two bogeys over her four rounds.
Thanks to her ace, Thompson (66-71-67-67—271) tied for third at 13-under with English player Jodi Ewart Shadoff (69-68-68-66—271), with each collecting $77,618.
There was also a tie for fifth at 10-under between Americans Angela Stanford and Jacqui Concolino, who each took $49,544, and five players rounded out the top dozen tied at 9-under.
In that group was Meena Lee, who fired a tournament-best round of 62, Toledo native Stacy Lewis, who closed with a 64, New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko, American Jennifer Johnson, and Japan’s Chie Arimura.
In the Marathon Classic’s predecessor, the Farr Classic, South Korean players had won the previous three titles, and five of the last six. This year, Lee needed her 9-under final round just to become to only South Korean to crack the top 10.
At one point spanning the final 14 holes of Saturday’s third round and the first eight holes Sunday, Stanford carded 13 birdies.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.